From its beaches with red, black and white sands, a dizzying descent from Fira to the Old Port in cable car, daily cruises around the caldera, hiking, dining or walking through traditional villages, the island does not disappoint.
An all-time favorite vacation spot, Santorini caters to your every taste. You can join in the sunset ritual at Oia on the northern tip of the island and enjoy spectacular sunsets either perched on the castle walls, from the privacy of an infinity pool on the cliff edge, or sipping a glass of local wine in one of the many outdoor terraces of cafes and restaurants.
If you like walking, the island offers many hiking trails. With a guide or on your own, you can follow one of the traditional paths skirting the ridge, from the town of Fira, through the villages of Firostefani and Imerovigli up to Oia, walking along cobblestone lanes and getting a glimpse of village life, with the endless blue vista of the Aegean by your side.
3. Nea Kameni
Santorini actually encompasses a group of islands.The main inhabited ones are Thira (official name of Santorini) and Thirassia, and the uninhabited ones are Aspronissi and Palea and Nea Kameni. The whole island complex is a result of volcanic eruptions, with the last big eruption in the 16th Century BC causing the collapse of the central part and creating the sea-filled caldera or crater. This gives the island its very unique volcanic landscape, especially evident when you visit Nea Kameni, an active but dormant volcano in the center of the caldera with its active sulfur vents, where you can walk right around the rim of the crater, taking in the wild landscape with its red and black rocks. Or you can take a swim in the thermal waters around Palea Kameni that form a volcanic spa.
If you are an archeology bluff, Akrotiri on the south western coast offers you ample opportunity to visit the sheltered site of a Minoan Bronze age settlement that was destroyed in the volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC. It was completely covered in ash which preserved the remains of 2 and 3-storey buildings with amazing frescoes, drainage system and pottery among others. The Museum of Prehistoric Thira at Fira exhibits the finds from Akrotiri.
During the Venetian occupation of the island, castles were built as protection against pirate attacks and there are 5 that are well worth visiting. The Kasteli(castle) of Pyrgos with its high vantage point offers great panoramic views. Not far from Pyrgos stand the castle and towers of Emborio(Nimborio). The Rock of Skaros can best be viewed from Imerovigli and can be reached through the trekking path from Fira to Oia. The Castle of Agios Nikolaos at Oia is known as the ideal site to watch sunsets. And the Kasteli at Akrotiri now offers workshops and exhibition of Greek musical instruments.
Santorini is known to have the oldest vineyards dating back 3,200 years. The island’s wine industry is based on the local white Assyrtiko grape variety, along with the Athiri and Aidani. The red grape produces the Mandelaria variety. The volcanic soils protect the vines from parasites resulting in roots that are centuries old. Santorini, Nykteri and Vinsanto are the known classified wines. You can book a tour of the various wineries, to learn about the history and process of winemaking and get a chance to taste local varieties. Among the wineries are the Santo Wines in Pyrgos, the Sigalas Estate in Oia, the Argyros Estate in Mesa Gonia, which is one of the oldest vineyards, Boutari in Megalochori, Gaia in Exo Gonia and in the same area is the Art Space Winery, which is also an art gallery and wine museum.
7. Greek Gastronomy
Combine the wine of your choice with the traditional local dishes to give yourself an unforgettable gastronomic experience. Among the local produce is the tomato which owes its sweetness to sparse watering of the volcanic soil which also produces the white aubergine and capers. Stimulate your taste buds with such dishes as Santorinio Sfougato with zucchini, feta, onions, flour and eggs, Fava made from the local split yellow peas, Tomatokeftedes, Apochti or pork loin, Chlorotyri or goat cheese. Try Kopania, the sweet sesame balls and Melitinia, the sweet cheese pie with mizithra. Santorini offers choices for every budget and don’t miss out on the Culinary tours highlighting the island’s signature dishes.
Whether you are a first time visitor or a Santorini veteran, this island offers an endless scope for discovery.
And the reasons for visiting the island never stops at 7!
Cover Photo Credit: Pedro Szekely